Tuesday, November 20, 2007

You Are Charged With... Stuff

In the latest offering of Good News From Gitmo, we now hear more and more details of how the current group of indefinite detainees ("Enemy Combatants" - don't get me started) were actually given the distinction.

The folks charged with, well, charging them, were not allowed to see the classified information that was used against the detainees in order for them to be picked up and brought to our lovely hunk of Cuba. The years of experience required to fulfill this particular task is apparently one year of work outside of law school (or possibly a Batchelor's in carpentry, it didn't seem clear). So they can't ask the CIA, the NSA or the DIA. Even within their own systems, if they're not part of a particular "community of interest," they would be blocked from retrieving data that normally wouldn't be considered classified. So they rely on interrogations of other detainees to find out whether you need to be a detainee yourself. Like, the guy cuffed to the seat next to you on the plane.

Sounds reliable to me...

Oh, and there's one more little bit of data they use to convict you of being permanently detained: your association with "Groups with Terrorist Associations." Like the various Muslim charitable groups that may or may not have been used to funnel money to terrorists, by feeding the poor. Feeding people - that's the same thing as promoting terrorism, right? You're feeding them, therefore you're promoting their ideals. And if you've given money to a "Group with Terrorist Associations," you're a terrorist.

Which reminds me, never give money to the Catholic church. They are, after all, associated with pedophile associations. Or they kind of are a pedophile association. Because if you give money to the Catholics, that would make you a pedophile, right? Right???

In other news, Dennis Kucinich was at Fort Benning, GA to protest the School of the Americas, now known as WHINSEC (can't remember what that stands for - click the link for the Wiki). He was joined (as he is every year) by a large group of protesters, who think that, as a country that espouses democracy and other quaint ideas, maybe we shouldn't have a school for torture, guerrilla warfare (usually used against the democratically elected leaders) and general mayhem. Many Latin American countries have been the beneficiary of SOA graduates, who usually end up with names like Death Squads, rapists, war criminals, etc.

Remember, you're either with the terrorists or against them.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Beware the Falafel Bomb

I couldn't make this one up if I tried.

The FBI in the San Francisco Bay Area was looking for a spike in falafel sales to track Iranian spies/infiltrators.


I need more than a drink at this point. If they had done this while the Dead was still touring, or even Phish... Now we're looking more at Indigo Girls, maybe Ani diFranco.

Boy, if we ever get need to worry about Irish infiltrators, are we going to track the sales of Bushmills or Guinness? How about the Italians - a spike in ravioli sales, maybe?

The article mentions that the FBI supervisor that eventually squashed this investigation was concerned with the idea that it might be illegal to track people by food consumption. If that's the case, why do we let grocery stores do it anyway, with all of those "frequent customer cards" they pass out to everyone.

Oh, yeah, he also mentioned it was "ridiculous."


How stupid do we have to be? Let's keep stooping to the lowest possible common denominator, until we start tracking illegal immigrants by spikes in sales of avocado.

In more interesting news, there is a way to protest the treatment of the Buddhist monks in Burma: send the ruling junta your unwashed panties, ladies - apparently it freaks them right out.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Dogs of War, Indeed

Blackwater Worldwide is a criminal organization that murders indiscriminately and bilks the American taxpayer out of our hard-earned cash.

Sue me.

On February 7th of this year, three guards, Nabras Mohammed Hadi, Azhar Abdullah al-Maliki, and Sabah Salman. working at the Iraqi Media Network, were shot by sniper fire from a Blackwater specialist on the rooftop of the Justice Ministry, across the square from the Network. Someone was insisting they be allowed to park in the traffic circle in the square below (which isn't allowed as everyone is worried about car bombs), and Hadi (on the balcony above) engaged the folks below him, raising his AK-47 to a ready position in case things got ugly. The Blackwater sniper shot him dead. The Iraqi guard's buddies saw him drop, ran up, trying to stay behind the low wall of the balcony. Al-Maliki stuck his head up a little, and took a bullet in the neck from the Blackwater sniper. He didn't die right away. His friends managed to get both of them off the balcony. Salman (unarmed) went up later to collect the AK-47, and was apparently shot in the side and died. He never made it to the rifle.

Capt. Ahmed Thamir Abood, the head of the security detail of the IMN, approached the Blackwater guards in the square below the balcony where the guards were shot, he asked to speak to someone in charge. At which point, the Blackwater personnel decided it would be the right moment to act like the Marx brothers: "He's in charge." "No, he's in charge." etc. The fellow they were guarding (a thirty-something white guy in a blue suit), came out of the Justice Ministry flanked by more Blackwater personnel, jumped into an SUV, and sped off, all the while ignoring the entreaties from Abood. The remaining Blackwater fellas dropped smoke grenades, jumped into their vehicle, and sped off towards the Green Zone.

Thanks to CPA Order 17, security contractors in Iraq are immune from prosecution in Iraq for any crime they commit against Iraqi military or civilians. That's the Coalition Provisional Authority, by the way.

The Iraqi guards were paid the equivalent of $231 US per month. Each of the Blackwater guys are making (on average) $850 per day. The TV station was able to help pay for the burials of these three men, and hired one member of each of their families in order to help out with the lost income.

The State Department, after talking to no one at the TV Station (by their own admission), and pretty much getting all their information from the Blackwater personnel, determined that the shooting was justified, and no money would be forthcoming to the families of the slain guards. Blackwater claimed they were defending themselves against precision small-arms fire, but no evidence has been shown to prove that. Even if it was an unprovoked killing, as far as anyone can determine, at worst these Blackwater personnel face being fired and shipped home.

But that's all.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Narf! (with apologies to Pinky)

Really, really sick of it all. Michael Mukasey (an otherwise reputable legal mind) has simply refused to comment on whether or not waterboarding is torture. And while that sort of mealy-mouthed behavior is nothing less than normal from anyone living in the white part of Washington, DC, doing it in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee should have been career suicide.

Then again...

Waterboarding (for those of you unfamiliar with the game) is a nasty way to get information, and in some cases a nasty way to die. The victim is strapped to a board, feet elevated above the head, and either water is poured directly over the victim's face, or the victim has a cloth wrapped over his/her face and water is poured over that. Either way, tastes like drowning. Elevated blood pressure, elevated heart rate, water up the nose, into the lungs. Folks who have been waterboarded report PTSD when it rains. Some people die (either of actual drowning or heart attack due to the sheer terror of drowning). And, strangely enough, when this sort of thing was done during WW II (by the Japanese), we made sure that the folks who did it went to jail for a long time.

We signed on to the Geneva accords a long time ago, which makes the Geneva laws both quaint and as much a part of the Constitution as that whole "We the People" thing. So, this is considered torture, and the Geneva Conventions say we can't torture anyone for any reason.

Now Senators Feinstein and Schumer have voted to allow Mukasey's nomination to go up for approval. Many of their constituents have protested. (I'd be upset about Arlen Spector's pre-vote stance saying that this whole business was "troubling," just not "troubling" enough for him to not confirm the guy - except that he's a Republican, so it's no big surprise) The reason these two Dems caved in are pure political pragmatism - if Bush can't have Mukasey, then he will appoint someone during a recess, or appoint an acting AG. And we might get someone scaaaaarier than Alberto Gonzales.

They claim they are worried about a vacuum of leadership in the Justice Department. I believe we already had that with Gonzo, but whatever.

Then we have the erstwhile work of the previous AG, still holding sway, even though he's not really there anymore. The Shrub can say with certainty that "we don't torture" because Gonzo privately redefined torture in various secret memos.

Proud to be on the side of the angels, like Pol Pot and other friendly folk.